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P21 Framework Definitions Document

This definitions document provides guidance to educators who are working to make sure
the K-12 education system provides all students with rich core content and 21st century

The framework defined in this document presents a holistic view of 21st century teaching
and learning. It presents a vision for 21st century student outcomes (a blending of
content knowledge, specific skills, expertise and literacies) and the support systems that
are needed to produce these outcomes.

While the graphic represents each element distinctly for descriptive purposes,
the Partnership views all the components as fully interconnected in the process
of 21st century teaching and learning.

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The elements described in this section as “21st century student outcomes” (represented
by the rainbow) are the knowledge, skills and expertise students should master to
succeed in work and life in the 21st century.


Mastery of core subjects and 21st century themes is essential for all students in
the 21st century. Core subjects include:
 English, reading or language arts
 World languages
 Arts
 Mathematics
 Economics
 Science
 Geography
 History
 Government and Civics

In addition to these subjects, we believe schools must move to include not only a
focus on mastery of core subjects, but also promote understanding of academic
content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes
into core subjects:

Global Awareness
 Using 21st century skills to understand and address global issues
 Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing
diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and
open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts
 Understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English

Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy

 Knowing how to make appropriate personal economic choices
 Understanding the role of the economy in society
 Using entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career

Civic Literacy
 Participating effectively in civic life through knowing how to stay informed
and understanding governmental processes
 Exercising the rights and obligations of citizenship at local, state, national
and global levels
 Understanding the local and global implications of civic decisions

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Health Literacy
 Obtaining, interpreting and understanding basic health information and
services and using such information and services in ways that enhance
 Understanding preventive physical and mental health measures, including
proper diet, nutrition, exercise, risk avoidance and stress reduction
 Using available information to make appropriate health-related decisions
 Establishing and monitoring personal and family health goals
 Understanding national and international public health and safety issues


Learning and innovation skills increasingly are being recognized as those that separate
students who are prepared for a more and more complex life and work environments in
the 21st century, and those who are not. A focus on creativity, critical thinking,
communication and collaboration is essential to prepare students for the future.


Think Creatively
 Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
 Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)
 Elaborate, refine, analyze and evaluate their own ideas in order to improve and
maximize creative efforts

Work Creatively with Others

• Develop, implement and communicate new ideas to others effectively
• Be open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives; incorporate group
input and feedback into the work
• Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work and understand the real
world limits to adopting new ideas
 View failure as an opportunity to learn; understand that creativity and
innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent

Implement Innovations
 Act on creative ideas to make a tangible and useful contribution to the field in
which the innovation will occur


Reason Effectively
 Use various types of reasoning (inductive, deductive, etc.) as appropriate to
the situation

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Use Systems Thinking
 Analyze how parts of a whole interact with each other to produce overall
outcomes in complex systems

Make Judgments and Decisions

 Effectively analyze and evaluate evidence, arguments, claims and beliefs
 Analyze and evaluate major alternative points of view
 Synthesize and make connections between information and arguments
 Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
 Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

Solve Problems
 Solve different kinds of non-familiar problems in both conventional and
innovative ways
 Identify and ask significant questions that clarify various points of view and
lead to better solutions


Communicate Clearly
 Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written and nonverbal
communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts
 Listen effectively to decipher meaning, including knowledge, values, attitudes
and intentions
 Use communication for a range of purposes (e.g. to inform, instruct, motivate
and persuade)
 Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their
effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
 Communicate effectively in diverse environments (including multi-lingual)

Collaborate with Others

 Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
 Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary
compromises to accomplish a common goal
 Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual
contributions made by each team member

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People in the 21st century live in a technology and media-suffused environment, marked
by various characteristics, including: 1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid
changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual
contributions on an unprecedented scale. To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and
workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to
information, media and technology.


Access and Evaluate Information

 Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
 Evaluate information critically and competently

Use and Manage Information

 Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
 Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
 Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the
access and use of information


Analyze Media
 Understand both how and why media messages are constructed, and for what
 Examine how individuals interpret messages differently, how values and points
of view are included or excluded, and how media can influence beliefs and
 Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the
access and use of media

Create Media Products

 Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools,
characteristics and conventions
 Understand and effectively utilize the most appropriate expressions and
interpretations in diverse, multi-cultural environments

ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) LITERACY

Apply Technology Effectively

 Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate
 Use digital technologies (computers, PDAs, media players, GPS, etc.),
communication/networking tools and social networks appropriately to access,
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manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in
a knowledge economy
 Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the
access and use of information technologies


Today’s life and work environments require far more than thinking skills and content
knowledge. The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the
globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to
developing adequate life and career skills.


Adapt to Change
 Adapt to varied roles, jobs responsibilities, schedules and contexts
 Work effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities

Be Flexible
 Incorporate feedback effectively
 Deal positively with praise, setbacks and criticism
 Understand, negotiate and balance diverse views and beliefs to reach workable
solutions, particularly in multi-cultural environments


Manage Goals and Time

 Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria
 Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals
 Utilize time and manage workload efficiently

Work Independently
 Monitor, define, prioritize and complete tasks without direct oversight

Be Self-directed Learners
 Go beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand
one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise
 Demonstrate initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
 Demonstrate commitment to learning as a lifelong process
 Reflect critically on past experiences in order to inform future progress


Interact Effectively with Others

 Know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak

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 Conduct themselves in a respectable, professional manner

Work Effectively in Diverse Teams

 Respect cultural differences and work effectively with people from a range of
social and cultural backgrounds
 Respond open-mindedly to different ideas and values
 Leverage social and cultural differences to create new ideas and increase both
innovation and quality of work


Manage Projects
 Set and meet goals, even in the face of obstacles and competing pressures
 Prioritize, plan and manage work to achieve the intended result

Produce Results
 Demonstrate additional attributes associated with producing high quality
products including the abilities to:
- Work positively and ethically
- Manage time and projects effectively
- Multi-task
- Participate actively, as well as be reliable and punctual
- Present oneself professionally and with proper etiquette
- Collaborate and cooperate effectively with teams
- Respect and appreciate team diversity
- Be accountable for results


Guide and Lead Others

 Use interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others
toward a goal
 Leverage strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
 Inspire others to reach their very best via example and selflessness
 Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior in using influence and power

Be Responsible to Others
 Act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind


The elements described below are the critical systems necessary to ensure student
mastery of 21st century skills. 21st century standards, assessments, curriculum,
instruction, professional development and learning environments must be aligned to
produce a support system that produces 21st century outcomes for today’s students.
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21st Century Standards
 Focus on 21st century skills, content knowledge and expertise
 Build understanding across and among core subjects as well as 21st century
interdisciplinary themes
 Emphasize deep understanding rather than shallow knowledge
 Engage students with the real world data, tools and experts they will encounter
in college, on the job, and in life; students learn best when actively engaged in
solving meaningful problems
 Allow for multiple measures of mastery

Assessment of 21st Century Skills

 Supports a balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing
along with effective formative and summative classroom assessments
 Emphasizes useful feedback on student performance that is embedded into
everyday learning
 Requires a balance of technology-enhanced, formative and summative
assessments that measure student mastery of 21st century skills
 Enables development of portfolios of student work that demonstrate mastery of
21st century skills to educators and prospective employers
 Enables a balanced portfolio of measures to assess the educational system’s
effectiveness in reaching high levels of student competency in 21st century

21st Century Curriculum and Instruction

 Teaches 21st century skills discretely in the context of core subjects and 21st
century interdisciplinary themes
 Focuses on providing opportunities for applying 21st century skills across
content areas and for a competency-based approach to learning
 Enables innovative learning methods that integrate the use of supportive
technologies, inquiry- and problem-based approaches and higher order
thinking skills
 Encourages the integration of community resources beyond school walls

21st Century Professional Development

 Highlights ways teachers can seize opportunities for integrating 21st century
skills, tools and teaching strategies into their classroom practice — and help
them identify what activities they can replace/de-emphasize
 Balances direct instruction with project-oriented teaching methods
 Illustrates how a deeper understanding of subject matter can actually enhance
problem-solving, critical thinking, and other 21st century skills
 Enables 21st century professional learning communities for teachers that model
the kinds of classroom learning that best promotes 21st century skills for
 Cultivates teachers’ ability to identify students’ particular learning styles,
intelligences, strengths and weaknesses

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 Helps teachers develop their abilities to use various strategies (such as
formative assessments) to reach diverse students and create environments
that support differentiated teaching and learning
 Supports the continuous evaluation of students’ 21st century skills
 Encourages knowledge sharing among communities of practitioners, using
face-to-face, virtual and blended communications
 Uses a scalable and sustainable model of professional development

21st Century Learning Environments

 Create learning practices, human support and physical environments that will
support the teaching and learning of 21st century skill outcomes
 Support professional learning communities that enable educators to
collaborate, share best practices and integrate 21st century skills into classroom
 Enable students to learn in relevant, real world 21st century contexts (e.g.,
through project-based or other applied work)
 Allow equitable access to quality learning tools, technologies and resources
 Provide 21st century architectural and interior designs for group, team and
individual learning
 Support expanded community and international involvement in learning, both
face-to-face and online

P21 Framework - FINAL
Last updated 05/27/09